Before July is over, and as it's been raining today, here another installment of our popular series: Wild Food of the Month. Summer is a time when I do slightly less wildfood foraging, because there's such a glut of cultivated veg in the garden, which doesn't mean we cease finding free food altogether though. We eat purslane on a practically daily basis in salads and as part of mixed juices. Now I have discovered amaranth it's leaves feature regularly in soups and bakes. Not to mention early windfall apples and pears providing us with juice. But today I'd like to talk about something you may not readily associate as a wild food.
The seeds of all species of pine tree are in theory edible, however most are far too small and fiddly to bother with. The most commonly used pine kernel comes from the Mediterranean stone oak. You gather the cones around this time of year, checking them for evidence of seed. You will probably find some loose on the ground as well.
Then you peel of the scales on by one to reveal one or two seeds under each. This is an extremely messy and sticky job as you can see from the state of my hand, mind you it smells nice.
Next you have to crack the hard shell around the actual pine kernel. You can do this with a wee tap of a small hammer (sorry couldn't find a smaller one),
or with the narrow bit of your nutcracker.
If you are unlucky your shell will be empty, as happens with at least 50%
But if you are lucky you'll find a small precious pine kernel.
The shell is extremely tough so it took me the best part of an hour to just get a small handful. It explains why they are so expensive when you buy them in a shop, however, fresh like this they actually taste of pine resin and are really aromatic, unlike most shop bought varieties which only seem to add texture to your pesto.
Yes and pesto is of course the traditional way of using pine kernels in our parts, but it's lovely added to other dishes too. I used the other day to add to a squash, dried fruit and pine kernel Pilau. That was after I had finished playing silly buggers with the squash and pretending I was Johnny I'm-a-bit-constipated Wilkinson kicking a penalty in rugby